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The Rushden Echo 16th January 1903
Rushden Fire Brigade and their New Station

A picture of Rushden Fire Station built in 1902
Rushden Fire Station built 1902

DINNER AND OPENING

The members of the Rushden Fire Brigade, with the members of the Urban Council and a number of visitors, sat down to the first dinner provided in the new fire station which has just been erected by the Urban Council, and advantage was taken of the opportunity to declare the new premises open. A full description of the building, with illustrations, has already appeared in the “Rushden Echo.”

Mr. G. Denton (chairman of the Urban Council)  occupied the chair, and there were also present Capt. Hill (Bedford), Capt. Simpson (Higham Ferrers), Capt. Riddle (Kettering), Supt. Pendered (Wellingborough),  Messrs. J. S. Clipson (vice-chairman), J. Claridge, W. H. Wilkins, T. Swindall, F. Ballard, J. Spencer, J. Green, J. Hornsby, C. Bates, and W. Bazeley (members of the Urban District Council), G. S. Mason (clerk), W. B. Madin (surveyor), J. B. Martin (sanitary inspector), and Smith (assistant surveyor), Inspector Onan, Lieut. C. R. Claridge, Messrs. Owen Parker (Deputy-Mayor, Higham Ferrers), Hensman, J. Wykes Ashdowne, G. H. Skinner, Paul Cave, John Sargent, Jas. Sargent, B. Mortimer, W. Colson, S. Powell, W. Wilmott, H. F. Smith, T. Willmott, Nichols, Tomlin, Whittington, S. Pitt, G. Fountain, C. L. Bradfield, R. F. Knight, G. Farey, H. Randall, C. W. Willmott, and Redding;  Messrs. Walter Woodward, G. Bayes, W. Goodwin, T. Brightwell, and J. T. Reid (ex-members of the Brigade);  Messrs. C. E. Bayes, F. Underwood, J. Whiting, R. Twelftree, T. Wheeler, J. Sparrow, H. Staniland, H. Seckington, G. Burgess, C. Green, J. T. Colson, and G. R. Truner, secretary (present members of the Brigade), and M. H. Brewer (secretary, Kettering Brigade).  Letters of apology regretting their inability to attend the dinner were received from Capt. Healey (Leicester), Supt. Chatterton (Midland Railway Fire Brigade), Capt. Knight (Oundle), Capt. Lord (Thrapston), Capt. Logsden (Hitchin), Chief-Constable Mardlin (Northampton), Fire-Inspector Busby (Northampton), Mr. Geo. Miller (absent through illness), and Dr. Freeman.

THE OPENING

When the company had sat down, the Chairman said that before they proceeded with the repast the Captain of the Brigade had asked him to declare that the building in which they were was open for the purpose for which it had been erected. He hoped that the services of the Brigade would not be required, at all events during that evening, but it would be a satisfaction to the town to know that if the Brigade were wanted they were on the spot and ready to effectively cope with any emergency. He declared the building open. (Applause)

Dinner was then served, an excellent repast being provided by the Rushden Coffee Tavern Company, under the able direction of Miss Wyldes, Mr. H. H. Hobbs, of the 'Waggon and Horses', supplying the liquid refreshment required. The tables were very effectively adorned by palms and flowers, supplied by Messrs. Seckington and Son, of High-street, a special feature being several stands of very choice tulips and hyacinths, very artistically arranged.

The loyal toast was submitted from the chair in suitable terms, and was heartily drunk.

Mr. G. H. Skinner proposed 'The town and trade of Rushden', and said he believed he was the oldest tradesman in the town.  He could remember the time when there was only one factory in the town – Mr. Denton’s. (The Chairman: And only one butcher) Well, he believed that at one time he supplied the whole of the town with meat. He never expected the town would rise as it had done.  If some of them had known what would happen they might have done themselves a little more good. (Laughter)  Great credit was due to those gentlemen who had brought trade to the town. Instead of one factory, they had now about fifty. During the Russian war, things were in a bad way with them, but afterwards trade improved. The conditions of life were very much better now for trade and for working men. He hoped the town would go on increasing, though he was afraid they could hardly look for such a rapid increase as the last twenty years had seen. At any rate, he did not 'Not likely').  He was very glad to meet with them that night. They had a fine body of firemen, but he hoped their services would not often be required.

Mr. Paul Cave, in reply, said he had been interested in the trade of Rushden with great pleasure for years, and he hoped to be spared for many years to try and help on that trade. In helping others he was helping himself, and in helping himself he was to a certain extent helping others. Without trade, Rushden would be in a poor way. He did not see why Mr. Skinner need be despondent. If people only lived up to the times and did their duty, they would be able to hold their own against anybody. They must have all the best, up-to-date machinery and they would be able to compete not only with the rest of the county, but with America or any other country. If they only kept their eyes open they could do it. He could see a great future in front of Rushden.

Picture showing detail of the New Station 1902
Detail of the New Station
He did not see why Rushden should not be one of the foremost manufacturing towns in Europe. (Cheers) There had been, and still was, grit in the town, and he hoped that the dull times were past. People could not go without boots, and if the boots made in Rushden suited the people who wanted them, Rushden was bound to come to the front. The Urban Council had put up a very good place for the Fire Brigade, and he hoped the Council would do their best to provide for the rising trade of the place. He particularly hoped the water scheme would turn out well. He remembered the time when the old manual fire engine was bought, for he was a member of the Brigade then and took part in the purchase. It had been a good engine, but he would like to see a good steamer there.  (Applause)  He believed in doing a thing well, and he hoped they would continue to be progressive. (Applause)

Mr. J. Wykes Ashdowne also replied, and said he had a very deep interest in the trade of the town of Rushden. He was very much struck with that building which had been put up for the Brigade, and he believed that the Brigade were very efficient and were quite capable of doing what was required of them. He had great confidence in Rushden himself, and he wished the trade of the town every prosperity. (Cheers)

Mr. Owen Parker said he had never been called upon to act as spokesman for Rushden trade before, but he took it as an evidence that the fraternity which existed between the fire brigades also existed among those who took part in public affairs. (Cheers). As representing the ancient Borough, he wished sincerely to support the sentiment expressed by the toast, for, as the two towns were so close together, he felt that whatever conduced to the success of Rushden conduced to the success of Higham, he would suggest also, with great modesty, that whatever conduced to the success of Higham conduced to the success of Rushden. (Cheers)  He was glad to know that the cordial feeling which the ancient friends at Higham felt for Rushden was reciprocated there.  He congratulated the Chairman, and the Captain and members of the Brigade on the excellent station provided. (Applause)

Superintendent Pendered gave 'The Rushden Fire Brigade', the toast of the evening, and said they were taking part in a sort of house-warming—an appropriate term, he thought, (Laughter) They would no doubt be connected with other house-warmings in future, but would probably throw cold water on them. (Laughter) In looking over those buildings he had been struck with admiration, and, as superintendent of a local brigade, he had also been struck with envy and jealousy. He said, however, 'Avaunt, ye fiends', and he was glad to say they avaunted, (Laughter) It was evident that the Urban District Council looked for considerable growth in the town. It seemed to him that they intended those buildings to be the centre of a labyrinth of streets and shops, with a fringe of suburbs where the men of business could retire to recuperate themselves for the following day. The Brigade had now a station which was not equalled by any in the county, not even in the county town, and he was confident they would do their duty in making themselves masters of the art of fighting fire. (Applause) But it struck him that the furniture of the building was hardly suitable for a new home. The Brigade had done what they could with the old appliances, but they lacked an up-to-date steamer.

There were two ways of acquiring one. One way was for some public-spirited gentleman to make them a present.  There could not be a better way of perpetuating one’s memory. (Laughter)  If that suggestion were not acted upon, he could only suggest that Capt. Knight and his boys should go through their drills well and should shortly go to the Urban Council, tell them how grateful they were for the building, and ask for a little furniture. (Cheers)

Capt. Knight, in response, said the Brigade was not formed until after the fire at Messrs. Cave’s in 1877, and it was rather singular that their first gathering in that building should take place after the recent disastrous fire on the same firm’s premises.  When the Brigade started, Mr. Foskett, whose memory they honoured and revered, was made captain, and, be believed, held the position for 8 years. (Applause) There was only one other member, Engineer Colson, who had belonged to the Brigade all those years. He was sorry that some of those who had left the Brigade had not stayed with them long enough to be with them in their new home.  In past days they had not had much inducement to keep up their practice, for some of them generally caught cold in their old quarters, but he was sure they would now be much more likely to thoroughly study fire brigade work.  Some might say that the station was a little bit extravagant, but those who considered the matter did not think so.  About one-third of a penny in the £ on the rateable value of the town would clear the cost in about 39 years, so no-one would feel the cost.  He believed the Brigade would be keen in their work, and they had a secretary who was second to none – (Cheers) – in his enthusiasm for fire work.

Mr. W. H. Wilkins gave the toast of “The architect and the builder,” and said he remembered the time when the only shop in Rushden where one could spend pocket-money was a little shop where Robinson’s paper shop now was. It was kept by Mrs. Baker, and the principal commodities disposed of were peppermint lozenges and toffee. With regard to the architect and the builders of that station, he knew a good deal about them, and he knew they had done good, honest work. He was glad to know that Rushden builders had done the work, and had done it most creditably. With regard to that station, he could assure them that he could remember the time when the Southwark Fire Station was not nearly such a good one. He hoped that if they lived to see the time for an enlargement of the building the present architect and builders might have an opportunity to carry out the work.

The fire station was designed by Mr W Madin
The plan drawn by Mr Madin (courtesy E Fowell)
Mr. Madin, replying to the toast, said that when the Council gave him instructions to prepare plans he never undertook a task with greater spirit.  As an old fireman, he knew something of their requirements and he had tried to do his best.  He hoped he might live to design the next station.  He complimented the builder, Mr. Bayes, upon the excellent way in which the work had been done, and said that that work had been carried out without any friction. (Hear, hear.)

Mr. E. Bayes also replied, and said he and the sub-contractors had tried to do their duty in their work.

Mr. Tomlin, acknowledging the toast for the sub-contractors, spoke on similar lines, and said if a new station was required they would be there to do the work.

Engineer J. T. Colson proposed 'The Visiting Captains', and spoke in the highest terms of the way in which those gentlemen always received the members of the Rushden Brigade, when out on fire service.

Capt. Hill, in reply, said he remembered the days when they used to have practices in Mr. Cave’s yard.  He was, even in those days, a great admirer of the Rushden Brigade.

The housing of a Brigade was a responsible duty for the governing public authority, and it was well when they found a Council with men far-sighted enough to put up such a station as that, than which he knew none better calculated for its object in a town of the same size. He hoped that Supt. Pendered’s words would commend themselves to some gentleman of the town and that it would not be long before they had a good steamer of their own. He wished to impress on the Urban Council that the firemen were imbued with the right spirit, but would have them remember that a small amount of water from a steamer would have more effect than a very large quantity thrown on in a dribble by antiquated methods. Of course, the ideal way to get a steamer was for the Urban Council to rise to still greater heights and provide one. With regard to the fire service, there was nothing knitted men together more. They might even be cantankerous in their daily life, but when they met together to fight the great enemy, fire, they were banded together as one. He exhorted the firemen to go in for the best drills, and he hoped it would not be long before he saw them taking part in the annual competitions of their district.  He knew their spirit, and hoped that if they entered the competitions they might be successful. (Applause)

Capt. Simpson also replied, and said that, unlike Supt. Pendered, his envious feelings aroused by going over that building had not fled.  He hoped that the Higham Council would be able, in some small way, to follow their example. He hoped that the Brigade at Higham and that at Rushden would always maintain the good feeling which now existed between the members.

Capt. Riddle said he had much sympathy for Supt. Pendered and Capt. Simpson. At Kettering, they had good appliances but had a bad place to put them in. he thanked them very much for the way in which they had received the toast.

Capt. Knight gave the health of the Chairman in high terms, and said it gave him great pleasure to see all the members of the Council there to support the Chairman and the Brigade. The knowledge that the Council supported them could not fail to strengthen the Brigade. Should occasion arise he believed the firemen would not be found lacking. The members of the Brigade at any rate were doing their best to prepare themselves. Fire Brigade work was not easy work. They had a good many critics and many things were said which were not deserved. At the late fire there were a lot of adverse criticisms, but the opinion of visiting captains was that it was marvellous how the surrounding property was saved, and that the Brigades that were there must have done their work well.  The appliances and water supply were adversely criticised at the time, especially in a shoe trade paper, but the various insurance societies had a conference and an expert was sent down, who said that if the river Thames ran alongside, Messrs. Caves’ could not have been saved. At any rate, the Brigades saved much valuable property. He did not know whether it would be possible to have a volunteer salvage corps.  It seemed to him hard that people should be subject to their goods being run off by irresponsible people and put away where they had difficulty in finding them. He thought such a corps would be of very great advantage, and would be able to relieve the anxieties of those whose goods might be in danger. Such a corps would probably only be second in usefulness to the Brigade. (Cheers)

The toast was received with musical honours.

The Chairman, in response, said the Council were deeply in sympathy with the work of the Fire Brigade and he did not know that a request of the Brigade had been refused.  That spoke well for the Brigade, and he only wished to unite in the general wish that the future of the Brigade mght be in accordance with the building they had erected.  He agreed that Fire Brigades occupied a difficult position, but anyone could criticise and some of those who were readiest to find fault were not always readiest to help.  He believed the Brigade had done their work well in the past and that they would keep abreast of the necessities of the town.  (Cheers)  He could assure them that the Council heartily sympathised with them in their work and would do all they could to second their efforts to keep themselves efficient.

Inspector Onan thanked Capt. Knight for his kind remarks and said the assistance of the police was very willingly given. He would do all in his power to promote friendliness between the police and the firemen. (Hear, hear)

During the evening the evening songs were given by Messrs. T. Fuller, H. Randall, and C. W. Willmott. Mr. G. Farey accompanying at the pianoforte.


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